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Access to (what should be) open source information - Town and Parish Newsletter(s)

0 votes

What a state of affairs....

The county council publishes a monthly 'newsletter' to town and parish councils which it 'expects' to be distributed by clerks to PCs (we already know how some people treat 'knowledge as power' and the inefficiency that exists in distribution of information in some organisations.)

A request to the county council to be added to the automated email distribution list for the town and parish newsletter resulted in the following response:

"...Thanks for your email. Please could you let me know which parish or town council you represent? And whether you are a clerk or a councillor..?"

Reasonable enough....  Replied:

"...Candidate for May PC election..."

Which garnered the response:

"...Thanks for clarifying that.  The Town and Parish Council Newsletter is sent to town and parish council clerks for distribution to their councillors. We’ll be updating the mailing list after the elections and can add you to the list at that point if you have been elected and still wish to receive a copy direct from Cornwall Council.  In the meantime, you might like to sign up to our residents’ newsletter if you haven’t already..."

So here we go again:

"...Thank you for your reply.  I will re-state my request to be added to the mailing distribution list (with immediate effect) for the Town and Parish Council Newsletter which I presume is fully automated and has no particular administrative or financial implications.  The alternative of course would be to submit a request for copy through the FoI process which - obviously - would have administrative and financial implications.  I already subscribe to the “residents” newsletter.  Appreciate your further attention…"

What is it with people trying to keep (what should be) open source information as a closely guarded secret?

asked by (3.7k points)

1 Answer

0 votes
Cornwall CC may fell that the subject material would not be of interest to the general public but the claim that providing it through an FOI request would have financial implications is dubious.  An efficient or truly open council would make it available to download from their website for anyone who cared to want to read it.
answered by (21.2k points)
You quoted "Cornwall Council" in the body of your question text
Yes, just seen it! Dhoooh! Thought I’d anonymised it
So here we are then:

Thank you for your Freedom of Information (FOI)/Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) request. In normal circumstances we will provide a response within 20 working days of receiving your request. There may be a small number of occasions where we may need to extend the 20 working day deadline. We will inform you if this is likely.

What a pity there was nobody with the vision and foresight to realise the business of a "communications officer" at a LA is actually to COMMUNICATE!

I can't help but feel, part of the problem with communication of relevant information - whether that be internal within a PC or LA to PC or LA/PC to public - is that people are often too ready to accept "no" as the answer.
The answer should almost always be "yes" as the default with "no" only used with exceptional justification.
Before I became a Parish Councillor I asked for some information that should have been in the public domain and they wrote asking for £1.25 ( 25 pence per sheet ) I asked them for an invoice which they sent I paid and asked for a receipt which they sent
In my workplace we estimated the cost of a letter at around £20 you can’t parody them !
The organisation presented with an FOI can seek recompense for reasonable costs for reproduction and postage. Not staff costs though. I’ve asked for the T&P newsletters in e-copy (just as they are) - no admin cost. There would have been no staff cost to the LA either if the “communications officer” knew what her job title meant and just added me to the mailing list.

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